By Chinelo Obogo
Former Registrar, University of Maiduguri and former Managing Director PPMC, Mohammed Lawan Buba in this interview called on all those who would want to invest in Borno to go there proudly and do so without fear as Boko Haram insurgency no longer holds the area to ransom.
To what extent would you say the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east has impacted negatively on the development efforts of the Borno governor?
If you were to be in Borno at the time Governor Kashim Shettima started his governance to appreciate the extent to which it has negatively impacted the development of our state, you probably will appreciate the situation today. Governor Shettima came with a very large ambitious plan for the state, and has shown that he has the means and ability to execute his plan. In spite of the insurgency, he has done extremely well in terms of infrastructure development, if you had been to Maiduguri, you would appreciate the infrastructure development that has taken place around the city. You would see what has been done in terms of roads; in terms of city beautification; in terms of lighting up the streets; school projects; provision of housing facilities around the state, particularly when you are driving from the city centre towards Gombe State.You would see the transformation of the villages along that road. One can go on and on mentioning the developmental projects that Shettima has undertaken and is still undertaking. The state is extremely lucky to have him at this material time. Like any other human, this could be my own view and that of many others in the state; any other person may see it the other way. But for majority of us, we appreciate what the governor is doing and urge him to continue.
So, to a large extent, you are saying that the insurgency impacted negatively on the state, but the governor ame to the rescue?
Indeed. First of all, let me start with a practical thing. When the insurgency started, a lot of people feared coming to the state, and when such is the case, they will certainly not invest there. It therefore affected the area negatively because investments that were due were not forthcoming. Before the insurgency, Maiduguri as a city, to a very extent, caters economically for our neighbouring countries-Cameroon, Chad, etc and beyond.
We know for instance that even before the insurgency, traders took sorghum and millets from Borno to as far as Libya and other sub-Saharan regions. In Borno there used to be a place called Fezzan. Fezzan quarters were established mainly for people that used to come from North Africa. But with time, all these began to tow the path of history. There were times as far as I know that five aircraft would leave Maiduguri to Kano and Lagos with passengers not only from the state, but also from our neigbouring countries for businesses. There were quite a number of people coming in to hire properties like warehouses or stores to safe keep their goods so as to facilitate faster transition of their goods to Lagos; but with the insurgency, all these things were grossly reduced.
But as God would have it, after some two years of Shettima’s administration, and with the assistance of the federal government through the establishment of an Army course in Maiduguri, the insurgency has been substantially reduced, to the extent that, gradually, life has almost returned to normalcy. Perhaps there may still be some challenges here and there; those ones are not tangible enough to stop people from going to do business in Borno. If you go to Maiduguri today, you will not believe that it was a place almost completely destroyed. Businesses are flourishing again. Generally, the place is now settled. Anybody including you here can come and invest in Maiduguri without any fear now. I can assure you that Maiduguri has come back to its normal self. There is no fear of insurgency any more, and we the people of Maiduguri are not only accommodative, we are welcoming to our visitors.
The issue of when the internally displaced persons (IDPs) should return to their home has been a subject of debate. Do you think the decision by the Borno State government to postpone their return is in order?
Yes, because no responsible government would send people to areas that are not fully secured, there are still pockets of local governments in the state where the insurgents have not yet been completely wiped out. For example, in Bama; I know for instance that government is rebuilding the houses, schools among others in that area that were destroyed by Boko Haram. In my opinion, government is only trying to ensure that normalcy is completely restored before sending the people back to the area.
Six years on the saddle now, how would you rate the government in terms of accountability, transparency and other indices?
In terms of accountability, the governor has done very well. He has been open and transparent. Even before he became the governor, he was commissioner. His transparency and accountability is well known to all of us. Indeed that may have helped him win to become governor. People looked at his records when he was holding that sensitive positions, and saw that he was somebody they could trust and so they entrusted to him that sensitive position of a governor.
What would say that the future holds for Borno State, considering the devastation caused by the insurgency?
Our hope as the people of Borno is, and we know that we are going to be greater than before. Our people are hard working; our people are visionary. If you take a look at all people around the world, the people that suffered the kind of devastation we suffered always came out stronger than they were before. After the first and second World Wars, many thought that was the end of Germany; today, Germany, whether we like it or not, is the leader of the industrialised world. So is our own case. Borno will emerge stronger and better among the Nigerian states.
There is growing agitation for the north-east to produce the next president in 2019. Where do you belong?
This question is very simple. You see we are in a democracy where the president is elected by the people, in this particular case, Nigerians. If Nigerians say there is somebody good enough to be elected from the north-east, so be it. If they say there is a capable hand that will steer the course of this country, so be it. If Nigerians believe that what the current President is doing is very good for him to continue, so be it. If somebody from the south-east, south-west, south-south comes out and presents himself, and Nigerians accept him, he is most welcome. Nigeria is running a democracy, and so far so good, the white man says if it is not broken, don’t fix it. That is my view and my position.